Monday, August 24, 2009

Is the leather armrest on your Yukon/Tahoe cracked? I've got the solution

I like my Yukon and I've always enjoyed my Chevy and GMC vehicles, but they do not use the best quality leather when wrapping the seats, meaning that around 40,000 or 50,000 miles, depending on use, the leather on the driver's armrest will probably start to crack. Not only is this leather cracking aesthetically unpleasing, but it also is uncomfortable on your arm; and if you store the armrest back in the seat, the geometry of the cockpit doesn't feel right.

My first sop in my quest to fix this problem was Pep Boys: although they admitted that this is a very common request (look at suburban streets in Colorado and every other driveway seems to have a Yukon or Tahoe in it), the only solution that they had was to stretch a lambskin steering wheel cover over it -- no. Then I ordered a neoprene cover, but because it was designed to fit over the leather without the armrest being removed, the velcro straps kept coming loose and it kept falling off (plus it looked really goofy). Finally I found The Seat Shop on the internet.

I'm not an extraordinarily mechanically-inclined guy, but I can generally get around with good instructions, however, what scared me about messing with the seat is the fact that it has side airbags. When I looked at the leather cover on The Seat Shop's site, it was clear that the armrest needed to come off in order to install it. Luckily the guys at The Seat Shop anticipated the problem of installation and helpfully provide fully documented videos on how to install the products that they sell. Based on watching the video, I went ahead and ordered the cover and gathered my tools. When the cover arrived, I took my computer out to the car (connected to my home wifi), set it on the seat, cached the video, and paused it throughout the removal process.

Here are a few tips about removal and installation:
  • Have the video handy somehow -- a nice laptop screen in the vehicle with you is helpful.
  • The leather of your seat cover has a lot of give, so don't be afraid to really stretch it to get at the ball and joint mechanism.
  • Before you start removing parts and pieces, you should jam a plastic shopping bag or some white paper into the opening behind the joint that leads into the seat -- anything you drop will sind up contained within the area around the joint and not fall into the seat.
  • You have to remove a rubber o-ring (they call it a "rubber band") -- don't lose it. I recommend using some 90 degree needle-nose pliers and/or tying a string to it before you remove it. Luckily if you do lose it (I didn't), it's about the size of a standard scuba tank o-ring, which you should be able to locate (probably free of charge) from a nearby scuba dive shop.
  • After to remove the rubber o-ring, you have to remove a u-shaped clamp. I recommend loosening the clamp as shown and then bending a paperclip around the convex "u" portion as the clamp is under pressure and jumps when you remove it.
  • Pull the armrest off.
  • Put the clamp and o-ring back on the joint as soon the armrest is off and tuck the leather from the seat cover back in.
  • Follow the instructions in the video to apply the leather sleeve (note that you really have to stretch the leather and get the sleeve zipped on before going any further). Once the sleeve is on, cut (yes, cut) the leather as shown in the video.
  • Put the armrest back into place and push in on it hard until you hear the clamp click -- when you move the armrest up and down, it should not move laterally once the clamp is in place.
I messed up this process and lost the u-shaped clamp, which is not a part that GMC stocks. There are a few options, though I employed the last one:
  • Lean your seat all the way forward, unclip the leather cover from the bottom, and fish around until you find the clamp. You can watch the cover installation video to try and get the cover back together or can leave it unclipped once you recover the clamp.
  • The Seat Shop can fax you instructions on how to modify a medium binder clip to work -- basically you just clip the thing with some wire cutters and create (as best you can) your own u-shaped clamp.
  • AutoZone sells a package of u-shaped window handle clips -- the largest clip in the package is almost too small, but it works; you just have to be patient on getting the o-ring around the flanges.
During this process I did have a chance to talk to one of the guys at The Seat Shop. Not only are they very friendly guys, but they really are knowledgeable about what they are doing. He ran through all of the options above and was luckily able to get me headed in the right direction to get my armrest working. Additionally, I had initially ordered the wrong color, so he sent me a new cover in the correct color free of charge. He did tell me that a lot of his business is direct to consumers that then take their products to an installer; he told me that he makes covers by purchasing 20,000 yards of leather and sewing off of that as opposed to local shops that buy in much smaller yardages and charge a lot more.

I'll tell you that the quality of the leather on The Seat Shop covers is visibly and texturally superior to what GMC uses. If ever my seats start to crack, I will be ordering replacement covers from these guys and having them installed. Note that, although my vehicle already has a third row of seats, The Seat Shop also sells the brackets, parts, and covers to install an aftermarket third row in your vehicle.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book review: Never Eat Alone

Never Eat Alone is not a new book, in fact, it was written before Keith Ferrazzi's new book, Who's Got Your Back, that I reviewed a a few weeks ago. There are a number of references to NEA in WGYB and I had been meaning to read it for a long time, but noting that there were somewhat tactical references to it in the more recent book, I bumped it to the top of my reading list.

Unlike many other business authors that can seem to abandon ideas in their previous books, I actually think that you can get more value in reading NEA after reading WGYB. Although my review of WGYB states that there is a good amount of tactical tips that are actionable, NEA is, in my opinion, a tactical companion to WGYB -- WGYB adjusts your mindset in a certain way and NEA gives a lot more actionable steps about how to reach the goals of your WGYB mindset.

Among the strategies in NEA are specific actionable toolkits such as getting past assistants that view their job as protecting their boss from speaking to you and making cold calls. There are lists of steps to ensure that networking interactions are worthwhile and that your expectations are correctly set, for example with cold calls:
  1. Conveying credibility
  2. Stating your value proposition
  3. Imparting convenience and urgency
  4. Being prepared in advance to offer compromise
As with WGYB, there are a lot of reviews that bash on Ferrazzi for name-dropping and for fake modesty. In my opinion (still) the name-dropping adds legitimacy to a lot of the real-world examples of putting the tactics to work and I think that Ferrazzi has a good personal story that shows how he made his way out of growing up in a blue collar town.

Worthwhile read.

Kindle version available.

-- book
Link -- Kindle version

Thursday, August 06, 2009 launches Financial Fitness is hands-down my favorite online money management site; I used it all the time via the web interface when it first launched and now extensively use it via the iPhone interface. I like that I can set budgets, that it derives budgets based on spending behavior, that it send my e-mails when bills are due, and that it allows me to track everything (bank accounts, mortgages, owned assets, etc.) to derive total net worth. As some of you may remember, even caught some fraudulent activity on one of my credit cards that I never would have noticed until it was too late.

There is a new beta feature of that allows you to track financial fitness. The Financial Fitness product does analysis on your accounts and spending behavior and provides actionable recommendations for you to be able to improve your financial fitness, specifically ways to improve your financial standing.

Check out via the link below.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My thoughts on the Apple Tablet

Rumors are swirling about the Apple Tablet ("applet" as I'll refer to it) and here are some thoughts:
  • Lots of people are assuming that this is an oversize iPod Touch with some high-def video capability. If that's the case, then it should run the the Kindle application, which means that it becomes an additional hardware vector for Kindle content rather than a "Kindle killer".
  • Ideally it well have support for basic document types (i.e., Word, Excel, etc.). If it supports at least opening and entering presentation mode for PowerPoint and Keynote files, and it includes some sort of common video out, that will make it an even more useful business tool.
  • It's possible that it will include a 3G component, but it's hard to say. If there is a 3G option, hopefully it can subsidized through an agreement, but hopefully there is also a non-3G version available to those that do not want/need that functionality.
  • Rumored price point of $699-$799 seems like it's probably correct, depending on functionality.
  • The Septemberish announce date for a launch that puts the devices into Apple Stores in time for the holiday season seems to make sense -- it could wind up being the must-have for this Christmas if they can launch it by that point. Note that in the past a lot of rumored pre-Christmas launches by Apple have been held over for various reasons into the next calendar year.
  • Apple might be working with record labels on something to make the "music experience" different, but, honestly, I can't imagine that it would be so cool as to re-energize full album sales and/or create a premium purchasing tier.
  • Provided that the tablet platform supports iPod/iPhone applications, I'm very interested to play around with Citrix on it.
  • As I've always hoped with internet tablets, I will state my hope here that the applet support bidirectional USB and allows devices like digital cameras and digital video cameras to dump content to the device (think, at the very least, a tablet version of iPhoto).
  • It will probably run on a custom processor from P.A. Semi, which Apple bought out. Honestly, I don't care what it runs on as long as it's fast and it works.
  • The accessory lines for the applet are going to be insane, dependent upon functionality: this opens up lines of portable accessories (covers, etc.), home accessories (docking stations, adapters for home a/v systems, etc.), and business accessories (docking devices, mounts that allow it to be used an secondary monitor or Wacom-type tablet, etc.).
  • Bidirectional wireless connectivity to Mac desktops and laptops would be ideal for internet connection sharing, syncing, and advanced functions such as using it as a secondary monitor, using it as a drawing tablet, etc. The obvious choice for this would be Bluetooth, but it's certainly not outside the realm of possibility that Apple would choose to adopt a higher standard like UWB or something similar that allows for dramatically faster transmission.
  • Bluetooth connectivity for wireless mice and keyboards seems like a safe assumption.
  • I'm eventually going to see someone walking around with one of these things somehow strapped to their belt and I will treat them most harshly.
Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Rendering from

Are you managing the symptoms or the root problem?

When I was engaged in consulting, specifically in process re-engineering and strategy, the reason that we were usually brought in was to bring and independent point of view and ensure that clients were really getting to the root cause of problems instead of just addressing symptoms of root problems. Working inside a business, it's very easy to become reactionary to symptoms and to address symptoms quickly and assume that you've addressed root problems.

I never really had a term for symptom management vs. root problem management, but Seth Godin has coined this term:
Let's define "bear shaving" as the efforts we go to do deal with the symptoms of a problem instead of addressing the cause of the problem.
That's awesome! Love calling it bear shaving -- brief, to the point, and interesting in conversation.

Seth has some great examples of bear shaving on his post (link below), but think about this:
  • Record companies complain about lack of album sales and the rise of the sales of singles, but are not investing money to find bands that can produce great albums (they only seem to be finding new bands that can produce singles).
  • Book publishers constantly express concern over a $9.99 price point for new release books when there are virtually no production and distribution costs instead of re-imagining their industry as their traditionally greatest costs head towards zero (how do you judge an e-book by its cover, especially when it's in grayscale and the size of a postage stamp on your Kindle?).
Don't let this happen to you and/or your business; as Seth suggests: call it when you see it.